Monday, September 21, 2009

Confessions of a Composting Newbie Pt. II

What do I do in the winter? Do I continue adding kitchen scraps to the pile, which will eventually freeze into a block of half-decomposed ice-muck? I don't want to throw a season's worth of scraps in the garbage. What's a composter in a cold climate to do?

I'm not sure how to handle the cold weather, but I have learned a few important lessons about composting this year:

1. One pile isn't enough. I need a second so that I can let one pile decompose fully and still have a place to dispose of kitchen scraps and spent plants.

2. Brown matter must be kept on hand at all times. My pile has struggled with a lack of leaves and an overabundance of "green matter." This fall I will save leaves that can be added continuously to the compost pile(s).

3. It takes a while. Even if we had experienced normal temperatures this summer, instead of the cool and rainy perma-spring that masqueraded as summer, the process of composting takes longer than I expected. As a generally impatient person, this is my fault for thinking unrealistically.

4. It saves an incredible amount of garbage. I pride myself on not producing a lot of garbage. Even with our house's diaper waste, we recycle prodigiously and do pretty well at reusing things too. I think it could be a lot worse. But I have been amazed at how composing food waste has cut down on our garbage even more dramatically. Now I feel like I can't go back to making as much trash as before, so what can I do with all my food waste in the winter?

PS--For all of you going to Raleigh this week for GWA, have a great time and a safe trip, and be sure to post on all the sights and sounds!


Rose said...

Rose, I don't know if I'm a composting newbie or just a lazy composter:) I do continue to put kitchen scraps on the compost pile all through the winter. Eventually, they will thaw out and decompose. I'll have to check back later and see if any "experts" offer some tips, because I could use them, too.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Umm, I tend to grind the stuff up in the insinkerator during the winter because sometimes the compost pile is just too far from the door (remember subzero temps & snow up to your knees?). I guess I should get a temporary container for the garage or just outside the patio door, but I'm concerned about critters (mice & raccooons) getting into it. It's a good question.

Green City Gardeners said...

As a lifelong Minnesota composter, your best bet for composting in the winter is to add to the pile and let it freeze. I don't have a problem with mice and other critters, but keeping the pile away from the house is a good idea. Some people compost in the basement or heated greenhouse with Red Wriggler worms (they die outside in our climate). In the spring, just turn your pile, water, add some nitrogen rich grass clippings and wait for beautiful compost! Voila!

rambleonrose said...

Rose--See Green City's Gardener's comment below!

MMG--I am concerned about trekking across the yard to add to the compost pile. I keep a tupperware under my sink to gather a couple days' worth of scraps before having to go outside.

GCG--Thank you for this advice! My bin is far from my house, so there's no smell and I don't have animal problems as of right now. Knowing that you can get great compost in MN after it thaws is inspiration! Thanks again!

Gail said...

Rose, it's a very good thing that we have a compost farm one city over so i can get compost delivered...There is no way i can compost enough! Maybe if I was REALLY efficient (not lazy). I do keep my fall leaves in a big pile and let them decay in the infamous wayback backyard. When the weather has been especially wretched and I don't want to trek to the pile...I freeze it and then carry it out after the rain dries up!


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